Concert for Indigent Defense in Your Jurisdiction to Celebrate Gideon’s 60th
Concerts for Indigent Defense are an energizing and exciting way for your defender office to celebrate Gideon’s 60th locally – while getting the public, media, and stakeholder’s support as well. This article tells you what Concerts for Indigent Defense are and how to very easily present one in your jurisdiction.
(If you can’t read this now, just email me now at Stephen@ConcertsforIndigentDefense.org. I’ll put you on the updates list and we can follow up later.)
Concerts for Indigent Defense is one primary way NAPD will help our 26,000 members seize the one-shot opportunity of Gideon’s 60th to build public support for the right to counsel across the country. We’re providing a platform and toolbox for your office to easily and successfully do so in your jurisdiction.
What are Concerts for Indigent Defense?
Concerts for Indigent Defense happen when musicians simply designate their performances on the weekend of March 18 as a “Concert for Indigent Defense.” The declaration is simply like the musicians wearing an armband or ribbon in support of a cause while performing that night. Designating their show a “Concert for Indigent Defense” creates a news hook that enables us to secure widespread media attention and foster public awareness about the pivotal importance of the constitutional right to counsel; how its failures harm people and justice every day; and what’s needed from our governments to more reliably provide justice for all – even those without money to secure a lawyer to present their defense.
Specifically, these “Concert for Indigent Defense” enable defender offices (and/or allies) to distribute press advisories to print, radio, TV, and social media at the city, regional, and statewide levels, to secure much-needed media coverage about this constitutional problem in mainstream, legal, music, and other outlets. All with just a smartly distributed press release, some social posts, and follow up…
Media coverage of the problem is critically important. Because while the constitutional failures tend to shock those who recognize them, most elected officials don't perceive that their voting constituents are aware of – much less concerned about – the fact that their governments aren’t providing support for the access, quality, and independence necessary for a proper criminal defense for people without means.
Concerts for Indigent Defense enables us to parlay the unique opportunity of Gideon’s 60th into hearty media coverage of the:
- Reason why the U.S. Supreme Court declared a constitutional right to counsel;
- Systemic failures of our governments’ enforcement of this right; and
- Daily injustices that flow – despite Gideon’s intent to prevent them.
Most people have no idea about these realities. Most politicians therefore don’t feel the need to care about them. And many jurists have simply come to accept the shortcomings as a limit of the criminal justice their courts provide across the country.
Presenting a Concert for Indigent Defense is Very Easy
If you like the idea, you’ll also like how easy it is for your office to present a Concert for Indigent Defense as part of its Gideon’s 60th celebrations. Here’s how it works.
Presenting a local Concerts for Indigent Defense is extremely simple. The basic steps for any defender office (or allied organization) are to:
- Identify the music fan(s) in your office;
- Ask them to connect with a local band(s) they like, to ask them if that band/musician will declare their (otherwise “regular”) show on the weekend of March 18 as a “Concert for Indigent Defense.”
(This requires virtually nothing more than the musician saying so, though they’re welcome to address the issue however they might like, too.)
- Send the essential info about the band/musician, venue, date/time, tickets, and musician & defender contact info to: Admin@ConcertsforIndigentDefense.org
- Have your office’s communications point person use the NAPD resources (sample press advisory & template) as a helpful guide for writing, issuing, and following up on your office’s press advisory about your local Concerts for Indigent Defense; and
- Make the most of the energy, publicity, and progress it enables, in whatever ways your office would like.
This is Easy AND it Works! History and Successes to Date
This concept is well tested, as it’s been in development for well over a decade. In 2017, death row exoneree John Thompson, the Orleans Parish Defender's Office, and I produced a successful nationwide demo in New Orleans. The performances received coverage on multiple local television segments, radio shows, newspaper articles, a major music magazine feature, and other media – and was joined by sister shows in Denver, NYC, and Connecticut.
We were planning for the 2018 nationwide rollout when JT suddenly died. Without my friend and partner we simply could not proceed. Yet Denver defender and musician Arnie Beckman kept presenting shows, and in 2020 he and I organized and publicized Concerts for Indigent Defense with partners in New Orleans, Brooklyn, Denver, and Connecticut. The pandemic arrived just before Gideon’s anniversary, however, wiping those shows out – and then the 2021 shows, too.
As 2022 approached, we’d begun planning live Concerts for Indigent Defense when Omicron again waylaid those plans…. So in lieu of live shows, we created a very grassroots website and video of music performances interspersed with perspectives on the importance of the right to counsel to celebrate Gideon’s 59th nationwide.
NAPD Celebrating Gideon’s 60th with Concerts for Indigent Defense Nationwide
The National Association for Public Defense has always been supportive of these efforts, in various ways. Months ago, it created a “Gideon’s 60th” working group, whose new Concerts for Indigent Defense subcommittee is creating the instructions, tools, and support to enable NAPD members (and friends) to easily present Concerts for Indigent Defense in their jurisdictions on the weekend of March 18, 2023. So keep an eye out for more to come!
If you’d like to know more about how you can pursue a Concert for Indigent Defense for Gideon’s 60th – or have any ideas to share, etc. – please feel free to email me at Stephen@ConcertsforIndigentDefense.org. I’ll be glad to hear from you!